Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lanier, Nicholas
LANIER (LANIERE), NICHOLAS (1588–1666), musician and amateur of art, born in London in 1588, is no doubt identical with 'Nicholas, son of John Lannyer, Musician to her Matie,' who was baptised on 10 Sept. 1588 in the church of Holy Minories, London. John Lanier (or Lannyer), the father, married on 12 Oct. 1585, at the same church, Frances, daughter of Mark Anthony Galliardello, who had served as musician to Henry VIII and his three successors. The family of Lanier was of French origin, and served as musicians of the royal household in England for several generations. One John Lanier, probably Nicholas's grandfather, who died in 1572, was described in 1577 as a Frenchman and musician, a native of Rouen in France, and owner of property in Crutched Friars in the parish of St. Olave, Hart Street, London (see Exch. Spec. Comm. No. 1365, 19 Eliz., 1577).
Another Nicholas Lanier, possibly Nicholas's uncle, was musician to Queen Elizabeth in 1581, and owned considerable property in East Greenwich, Blackheath, and the neighbourhood. He died in 1612, leaving four daughters and six sons, John (d. 1650), Alphonso (d. 1613), Innocent (d. 1625), Jerome (d. 1657), Clement (d. 1661), Andrea (d. 1659), who were all musicians in the service of the crown, while some of their children succeeded them in their posts.
Nicholas Lanier, like other members of his family, became a musician in the royal household, and in 1604 received payment for his livery as musician of the flutes. He was attached to the household of Henry, prince of Wales, and on the death of the prince in 1612 he wrote to Sir Dudley Carleton [q. v.] that 'he knows not which is the more dangerous attempt, to turn courtier or cloune.' He held subsequently a prominent position among the royal musicians, both as composer and performer. Herrick alludes to his skill in singing in a poem addressed to Henry Lawes. In 1613 Lanier, Giovanni Coperario [q. v.], and others composed the music for the masque by Thomas Campion, given on St. Stephen's night on the occasion of the marriage of Robert Carr, earl of Somerset, and Lady Frances Howard. Lanier composed the music for the masque of 'Lovers Made Men' composed by Ben Jonson [q. v.], and given at Lord Hay's house on 22 Feb. 1617; on this occasion Lanier is said to have introduced for the first time into England the new Italian mode, or 'stylo recitativo.' Lanier also sang himself in this masque and painted the scenery for it. He composed the music for Ben Jonson's masque 'The Vision of Delight,' performed at court at Christmas 1617. An air by Lanier from 'Luminalia, or the Festival of Light,' performed at court on Shrove Tuesday, 1637, is printed in J. Stafford Smith's 'Musica Antiqua,' p. 60. On the accession of Charles I, Lanier was well rewarded for his services. He was appointed master of the king's music and given a pension of 200l. a year (see Rymer, Fœdera, xviii. 728).
Lanier was also a painter himself and a skilled amateur of works of art. In 1625 he was sent by Charles I to collect pictures and statues for the royal collection. He remained in Italy about three years, staying at Venice and elsewhere, and expended large sums of money on his master's behalf. In 1628 he was at Mantua, lodging in the house of Daniel Nys, the agent, through whom Charles I acquired the collection of the Duke of Mantua, including Mantegna's 'Triumph of Cæsar,' now at Hampton Court. Lanier's acquisitions formed the nucleus of the celebrated collection formed by Charles I. He is considered to have been the first, with the exception perhaps of Thomas Howard, second earl of Arundel [q.v.], to appreciate the worth of drawings and sketches by the great painters. Certain pictures and drawings that can be traced to the collection of Charles I bear a mark generally accepted as denoting that they were among those purchased by Lanier. Sir William Sanderson, in his 'Graphice,' alleges that from his experience in trading in pictures Lanier was the first to introduce the practice of turning copies into originals by blackening and rolling them. Vandyck painted Lanier's portrait at half length, and the king's admiration for the picture is said to have led him to persuade Vandyck to permanently settle in England. Another portrait of Lanier painted at this time by Jan Livens was finely engraved by Lucas Vorsterman. Lanier was appointed keeper of the king's miniatures. In 1636 Charles I granted to him and others a charter of incorporation as 'The Marshal, Wardens, and Cominalty of the Arte and Science of Musicke in Westminster.' Lanier was chosen the first marshal.
With the outbreak of the civil wars the fortunes of the Lanier family declined. On the execution of the king Lanier composed a funeral hymn to the words of Thomas Pierce. He had the mortification of seeing the king's collections, which he had done so much to form, dispersed by auction. Lanier and his cousins were large purchasers at the sale, and he himself was the purchaser of his own portrait by Vandyck. During the commonwealth he appears to have followed the royal family in exile. Passes exist among the State Papers for Lanier to journey with pictures and musical instruments between Flanders and England. In 1655 the Earl of Newcastle gave a ball at the Hague to the court, at which a song composed by the earl was sung to music by Lanier. On the Restoration he was reinstated in his posts as master of the king's music and marshal of the corporation of music. He composed New-year's music in 1663 and 1665, and died in February 1665–6.
Songs by Nicholas Lanier are printed in 'Select Musicall Ayres and Dialogues' (1653 and 1659), 'The Musical Companion' (1667), 'The Treasury of Music' (1669), and 'Choice Ayres and Songs,' iv. (1685). A good deal of his music remains in manuscript; in the British Museum there are songs by him (Add. MSS. 11608, 29396; Eg. MS. 2013), and a cantata 'Hero and Leander' (Add. MSS. 14399, 33236), which had some success in his day. Other music remains in manuscript in the Music School and in the library of Christ Church, Oxford, and also in the Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge.
Besides the portraits mentioned above Vandyck is said to have painted Lanier as 'David playing the harp before Saul.' A miniature of Lanier by Isaac Oliver was in James II's collection of pictures. In the Music School at Oxford there is an interesting portrait of Lanier, painted by himself, (engraved by J. Caldwall in Hawkins, Hist. of Music, iii. 380). This shows him to have been a painter, but he cannot be identical with the Nicholas Lanier (1568–1646?), possibly a cousin, who in 1636 published some etchings from drawings by Parmigiano, and in 1638 another set of etchings after Giulio Romano. It is probably this last Nicholas Lanier who was buried in St. Martin's-in-the-Fields on 4 Nov. 1646.
The family of Lanier continued to inherit their musical talent for successive generations. One branch went to America, where it was worthily represented by Sidney Lanier (1842–1891), musician and poet.
[Cal. State Papers, Dom. Ser. 1604–70; Walpole's Anecdotes of Painting, ed. Wornum; Sainsbury's Papers relating to Rubens; Vertue's MSS. (Brit. Mus. Addit. MSS. 23068, &c.); Hawkins's Hist. of Music; Grove's Dict. of Music and Musicians; Menkel's Musikalisches Conversations Lexikon; Fétis's Biographie Universelle des Musiciens; Hasted's Hist. of Kent, ed. Drake, 1886; information kindly supplied by Messrs. W. Barclay Squire, F.S.A., Alfred Scott Gatty (York herald), and others.]